March 1, 2016

This horse is a library!



Last week we wrote about a petition, sponsored by Project Literacy, which calls on the United Nations to embrace a bold new plan to eliminate the risk of childhood illiteracy by 2030. The petition has already gathered over 757,000,000 signatures.

The project is hugely ambitious, and will require the concerted and coordinated efforts of governments the world over. It will also require the semi-heroic efforts of creative and passionate people in their own communities, people like Ridwan Sururi, a horse caretaker in Central Java who, in 2014, began a unique, mobile, and free library known as Kudapustaka.

Three days a week, Sururi loads up one of his horses with books and travels around his village of Serang and nearby communities, lending out and collecting children’s books, farming manuals and inspirational texts. The project was born out of a conversation that Sururi had with a friend in Jakarta. Per a 2015 BBC report:

“I love horses, and I want this hobby to bring benefit to people,” he told BBC Indonesia.

The idea for Kudapustaka came from Nirwan Arsuka a fellow horse enthusiast and friend of Mr Sururi’s. “He asked me: Can we help society through our hobby? I said I was interested, but I didn’t know how.”

“Then, he had this idea to create a mobile library using horses. I liked the idea, but sadly I didn’t have any books. So, he sent me boxes of books.”

Of the three horses he is paid to look after, Mr Sururi picked Luna as his companion.

“It was a wild horse, but I tamed it. Luna has never kicked or bitten anybody, and is very friendly when surrounded by children.”

He said he wished more people would donate books to his scheme. “Children here love comics and story books.

“Adults, on the other hand, need inspirational and how-to books, like how to farm, that kind of thing.”

According to a UNESCO statistical profile of literacy in Indonesia, illiteracy has plummeted in the country since the 1980s and the overall literacy rate now stands at 91%, up from 63% three decades ago. These numbers, and the commitment of individuals like Sururi should stand as inspiration, and make the lofty goals of Project Literacy seem well within our reach. To donate to individual and community efforts like Sururi’s around the world, or to sign the petition, check out Project Literacy’s website.



Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.